Kalifer Deil - Collected Works



True Stories

Science Writings


Science Fiction






Interesting Links

WordPress Blog

Kalifer Deil Philosophy

Secular Humanist?
A Simple Belief System

Philosophy Articles

Secular Humanist?

Kalifer is not religious although he joined the Baha'is in his late teens since it seemed to be peace oriented and rather universal. That lasted until he read Beha'u'llah's 'God inspired' Kitab-i-Igan which he regarded as a 'load of crap'. It didn't matter anyway since the Bahai's ex-communicated him when he married a Catholic without their permission.

I think he can best be characterized as one that Fundamentalists seem to despise more than devil worshipers, a Secular Humanist. He holds to the idea that you don't have to be religious to have humane and moral values. God, if He/She exists doesn't seem to be much involved in the day to day workings of the Universe. Kal also regards believers as dangerous; The stronger the belief the more dangerous. The problem with belief is that it becomes very easy to jump to 'the end justifies the means' style of thinking. This is not limited to religions but also pervades those that, by position, money or their self-perceived intellect, think they know what is best for others. Kal sees this in kings and queens, politicians, labor leaders, the old and new rich, corporate executives on down to school principals, PTA presidents or even a Mother or Father in a family. Decision making is necessary but when that becomes hubris or self-righteous and is done without consulting the parties involved, one enters a troubling zone.

Kal's beliefs have to do with tools rather than concepts. He believes that the tools of Science and the scientific method are more likely to yield results that are useful for human existence. Contemplating one's navel may be useful for a relaxation exercise but the knowledge gained from that experience is not likely to further the goals of man. And yes, Kal understands that science is a two edged sword but it is those with unflinching belief systems that often take up and make use of the other edge.

A Simple Belief System

"I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows." Why not? This is a harmless belief is it not? It has a certain poetic ring to it and it certainly won't drive people to kill each other. Yet, I'm uncomfortable with people that truly believe things akin to this. Such as, that usually fatal diseases can be cured if you pray hard enough. Those that died while praying, well, they just didn't pray hard enough or God needed them or their prayers were not sincere or ... The list of excuses is probably infinite. Then there are those who rely on prayer or some other incantations or concoctions in lieu of medication found to be efficacious. These folks have committed suicide with help. Getting close to murder isn't it?

How do you live without beliefs? For some, it is very uncomforting to live without a detailed roadmap to life. They should be very careful in selecting a belief system since it can not only control them but those around them. It can exclude rational thought that conflicts with those beliefs to their detriment, to the detriment of their families and perhaps well beyond that if these people end up in positions of influence. All the worlds great religions have had episodes where religious belief and zeal had catastrophic results.

Beliefs are harmless until you act on them. While this is true it is saying that these beliefs are not strong enough to act upon. This is somewhat like saying beliefs are harmless if they are harmless beliefs. Perhaps it would be better to go to a belief axiom system starting with AsimovŐs Laws of Robotics. But you say; we are not robots. Well, yes we are. Robots of the future will be self directed intelligent machines. The only difference is we are biological machines and we didn't make ourselves, at least, not in the sense of making robots.

Let's review Asimov's laws of robotics (including the addition of the zeroth law):
0. A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm except where such orders would conflict with the Zeroth Law.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the Zeroth or First Laws.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the Zeroth, First or Second Laws.

Of course, we as humans would find the second law problematic. Let's see if we can rewrite these laws to be more human oriented:
1) A human may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
2) A human may not injure another human being, or, through inaction, allow another human being to come to harm except where following such a path would conflict with the First Law.
3) Our instinct for self preservation should not interfere with the First and Second Law.
This is pretty simple, we have only three laws. As far as self preservation is concerned that is already built into our program and if we do not preserve ourselves then we may be violating the second law through future inaction. Perhaps we should also substitute sentient being for human being to cover all higher animals and future robots as well. Maybe not, I like meat in my diet.

Humans are more pattern recognition machines than intelligent machines and are set within an emotional self conscious framework that fools us into thinking otherwise. If we are intelligent (in terms of what an intelligence tests tests) then we are artificially intelligent due to programming by others in our environment. There are some who believe that we are born intelligent with math abilities that just have to be opened like a gift wrap. They cite some ant that wanders all over the desert then makes a bee line straight back to the nest. They have the ant doing trig in its little head; not likely. There is probably a simpler explanation and they just haven't found it. A child brought up by wolves would get near zero on an intelligence test and this has been observed. Still, even with a good command of language and arithmetic, simple logic is beyond the keen of a vast number of people. Therein lies a problem since many situations can arise which require some fairly elaborate thought to evaluate a scenario within the confines of these three laws. How does one conduct oneself as a soldier? How does one handle a situation like Vietnam when drafted into the service? In science fiction, a robot's brain would fry under such circumstances since it couldn't possibly evaluate all the different possibilities and outcomes for the least harmful result. In real life their brains might just shut down and refuse orders. On the other hand, military robots are not likely to contain Asimov's Laws.

Now let's take the Golden Rule which the West attributes to Christ "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In the East this is attributed to Confusius five hundred years before "Don't do to others what you would not want yourself."

Either way, this is a nice restatement of the second law above if you take a broad meaning of injure. However it is without the qualification of the first law. The qualification of the first law is necessary since if you are in a position to do so then it compels you to take action to stop a Hitler or a Stalin. The first law can also be interpreted to mean do everything to stop environmental damage since such damage could do great harm and claim future lives.

The above three laws are very activist in the sense that those that follow them with conviction and intelligence will likely change the World for the better. There is always the danger that the mentally imbalanced or people with other agendas will distort the laws or provide misleading data to justify actions that are inimical to these laws. There are no perfect laws that cannot be undermined by specious data so perhaps healthy skepticism and eternal vigilance is the only answer.

Copyright © 2003 Kalifer Deil. All Rights Reserved.